Saturday, 28 July 2012

Birthdays Abroad and Overheating Kayaks

We were getting ready to head off on our now annual trip to the south of France. I used to think it was a terrible waste of the world to return to the same place year after year; now I find a reassuring comfort in the familiar. This is our third visit.

“Mummy, you look Hanson!” cried Gilby in the morning, and all I could think was “Mmmbop…” Did I have floppy blond hair and look about twelve, suddenly? No, it was merely Gilby’s rapidly expanding vocabulary getting the better of him as it often does. Well, he was going to be three whilst we were away, but we took the decision to ‘save’ the birthday celebrations until our return. I feel a need to justify this decision: his presents were big (like soccer goal nets) and I didn’t fancy spending time baking and icing a cake in the heat of the sun. All the adults agreed to the conspiracy; how would he ever know?

I finished the last day of school and Daddy was waiting in the car park, Alice Cooper blaring from the stereo: School’s out for summer…car packed up with cases and kids, and a grandmother and a niece. Tremendously exciting, and by early evening we were in Lille.

The long trek down through France took the whole of the next day, and was relatively peaceful, aside from the moment when Gilby complained that his crisps had 'gone quiet' but his bread was 'noisy', which are the best eupehmisms for 'stale' I have heard.  Later, Nano calmly asked whether we had a change of skirt for Gertie.
“Only in the roof box…”
“No problem, only she’s just sneezed Babybel all over herself,” Nano went on to explain cheerfully. We arrived mostly in one piece, if a little cheese-sneezed.

A glorious week consisted of fabulous weather, delicious food, too much rose wine, daily water volleyball tournaments and plenty of other pool antics.

Grumps was at his best, or worst, depending on how you view it. We’d finished our main course of ‘chicken au Cabrieres’, and had just got to cheese. Excitedly, we planned our trip to kayak under the Pont du Gard the following morning. “They tried puttingheaters in those, you know,” he began, conversationally. “But they all started to explode.” The rest of us looked at him, bemused. “Which just goes to show that you can’t have your kayak and heat it, really.”

Gilby’s ‘birthday’ passed without incident. Sadly, the terrible twos didn’t end, but I consoled myself with the thought that it was simply that he didn’t yet know he was three. And we’d have got away with the harmless deception, too, if only the passport control officer hadn’t wished on our way back through the tunnel with the parting words, “Where’s Gilbert? Ah, there you are. Happy birthday for yesterday, young man!”

Pass the rose...

Sunday, 15 July 2012

A Bird in the Hand...

This morning it was my turn to walk the dog. (I say 'turn', which suggests that we alternate in an equal sharing of responsibility. In practice it usually works in a weekly ratio of about 1:6, so more often than not, it is my 'turn'. Never mind, I like it.)

Since we are 'not far from the madding crowd', I feel a quotation from Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd is apt to illustrate this story. It describes Fanny Robin trying to fling a lump of snow at the correct window of the barracks to catch the attention of her lover, Sergeant Troy:

'...a morsel of snow flew across the river towards the fifth window. It smacked against the wall at a point several yards from its mark. The throw was the idea of a man conjoined with the execution of a woman. No man who had ever seen bird, rabbit, or squirrel in his childhood, could possibly have thrown with such utter imbecility as was shown here.'

Far from accusing dear Thomas Hardy of blatant sexism, I am, on this occasion, forced to agree with him in relation to the quality of my own throwing ability. A fact which has not gone unnoticed (or indeed uncommented on) by my cricket-playing husband. So, for Christmas last year, said husband bought me a strange apparatus known as a 'ballflinger' which, with the aid of a flexible plastic arm enables the user to perform a throw, the resulting arc and distance of which James Anderson would be proud. This is very useful for tiring out a big dog on short walks.

This morning I employed the ball-flinger and several retrievals of the ball were made by our retriever. She is always very good at finding the ball, but occasionally reluctant to relinquish it. I have to coax it from her, or drag it forcibly from her mouth. But it was about the fourth go that I got a little more than I bargained for. She took a little while longer than usual to locate the ball, but then came bounding back with her usual enthusiasm. The tail wag and playful pounce alerted me to the fact that she was unlikely to let the ball go easily, so I reached down ready for slimy tennis ball....and got a handful of...dead bird. Definitely not worth two in the bush, I can tell you.

Thanks, Kempy.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Wonders of Wimbledon

Gertie loves Wimbledon, for two reasons as far as I can see.

I try to watch as much tennis as possible during the tournament (on television, of course - haven't made it to the championships since children arrived on the scene) and so for Gertie it means time spent with Mummy cheering on Andy Murray. There's a sort of osmosis happening here, because she likes the things that Mummy likes. (I know that will not last, so I'm just enjoying it while it does.) More importantly, though, for Gertie, it sometimes means late nights, staying up past bedtime, and it often means strawberries and ice-cream in front of the televison. Two treats that happen rarely at other times of the year.

Gertie enjoyed seeing Serena Williams win this afternoon, (though her delight was in how many people she cuddled at the end and the size of the plate, more than in the performance itself) and was fascinated to hear that this was Serena's fifth Wimbledon title.

Whilst her enthusiasm doesn't quite match that of her mother's, Gertie's very much looking forward to tomorrow and seems excited that Murray is in the final.

"So how many times has Andy Murray won it before?" she asked, conversationally, as Serena did her post-match interview.
"He hasn't."
"Oh. So he's not very good, then?"

I started explaining how difficult it was to win Wimbledon and then gave up, bowing down to the logic and clarity of the five-year-old mind. Just hoping that tomorrow changes that mind, though.

And, speaking of changed minds: after my last post about the excitement of Eddie putting on weight, it seems that the health visitor made a mistake with the scales and he hasn't jumped up onto the chart at all. I'm sure there's a full blog post hidden in there somewhere, but at the moment I'm too angry to think about it.